A Meeting between the Members of the EU and the Security Council
Tomorrow, 13 March, the twenty-seven ambassadors of the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC) are meeting with the fifteen ambassadors of the UN Security Council.* This informal event, which is not on the official programme of work of the Council, is being held at the request of the EU. Russia, as the current Council President, agreed to host the meeting at its mission. The agenda – which is expected to cover areas of common interest including the Middle East, Mali, and Somalia – was apparently proposed by the EU PSC and agreed to by Council members. (The Council most recently received an update on matters of interest to the EU when Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU, formally briefed the Security Council a month ago on 13 February [S/PV.6919]).
In recent weeks the Council has held multiple consultations on issues related to the Middle East, most recently on 8 March, following the detention of 21 peacekeepers from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights by armed opposition fighters in Syria. It is possible that although the peacekeepers have been released this matter may come up during the discussions. Both the Council and the EU released press statements condemning the incident and calling for the immediate release of the peacekeepers, which occurred on 9 March. Although the Council’s press statement on the Golan Heights (SC/10933) represents a rare moment of unanimity on issues relating to Syria and the Middle East, that consensus principally reflects agreement among Council members that the safety and security of peacekeeping personnel should be a high priority rather than signal any recent changes to the existing dynamic (i.e. stalemate) regarding the Syrian conflict.
Syria was also the focus when Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, met with all twenty-seven EU foreign ministers in Brussels on 11 March to discuss the possibility of a political settlement in Syria. He last briefed Council members in consultations on 29 January.
On Mali, Council members are likely to be keen on receiving an update on the setting up of the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali). The 15-month mission was initially deployed in February and will build the capacity of the Malian Armed Forces in command and control, logistics, and human resources as well as on international humanitarian law, the protection of civilians, and human rights. Council members may also be interested in discussing opportunities for expanding the scope of EUTM Mali as well as increasing cooperation with the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) and an anticipated UN peacekeeping operation.
A related Mali issue that may be raised on Wednesday is the extent to which some EU donors will continue funding and providing logistical support to AFISMA based on pledges made in Addis Ababa in late January. With the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel still being developed, Council members might also be interested in the process which led to the Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel by the Council of the European Union in March 2011.
With respect to Somalia, issues of mutual UN-EU interest which may come up include AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) funding, the future UN presence in the country, and the recent modification of the arms embargo. The EU currently covers payments for AMISOM troop allowances, while the UN provides a logistical support package. In its recent reauthorisation of AMISOM on 6 March, the Council raised the issue of sustainable financing once again, calling on the AU to consider funding the mission as it has done with AFISMA (S/RES/2093).
The informal meeting may also address the UN’s upcoming Technical Assessment Mission, which has been tasked with providing recommendations for the deployment of a new Special Political Mission in Somalia.
Lastly, the lifting of the UN arms embargo, which has been in place for more than two decades, may also come up during the meeting. While the Council unanimously approved resolution 2093, some members have privately and publicly voiced reservations.
In terms of the working methods of the Security Council, this meeting appears to represent a new format. It is similar to an “Arria formula” meeting in terms of location (they are held outside of Council chambers, and thus can be held at a permanent mission) and can be compared to an informal interactive dialogue in terms of participants (which have included delegates from regional bodies). In other ways, it perhaps most closely resembles the annual consultative meetings between the members of the Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council, which have alternated location between Addis Ababa and New York since their first meeting on 16 June 2007. These annual consultative meetings, however, take place in either AU or UN headquarters and result in a joint communiqué. (The most recent was held on 13 June 2012 [S/2012/444].)
* Due to inclement weather in Brussels, it seems that as many as ten EU ambassadors may not be able to travel to New York on time to attend tomorrow’s meeting.
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